Andrew Svedlow – On Contemporary Art in Community

Artmaking, teaching, and becoming an essential part of the local art community have filled artist Andrew Svedlow’s 14 years here in Colorado. Loveland emerged as Andrew’s new home when he moved here to take a job as dean of the College of Performing and Visual Arts at the University of Northern Colorado. He’s been working as an artist since he was sixteen in New York City, and is currently a Professor of Art History and Asian Studies at UNC. He is also one of the founders of Artworks Loveland, the largest contemporary studio artist community in Northern Colorado. At his studio at Artworks, we talked about community, inspiration and approaching contemporary art.

How does art connect us as a community?
It is hard to truly understand Loveland without really immersing yourself in the arts. I think Loveland is a highly arts-infused community, and that brings a quality of life that attracts all sorts of people. I like to say that artists spent a lot of time talking to each other about money – usually lack of – but people who are financially successful talk about art. Having art gives their lives more zest, more soulfulness.

Here at Artworks, we try to have a diversity of opinions from people who are patrons and participants, and I feel that Loveland is open to a dialogue about art, issues, and ideas. Though we are not without controversy, those moments are an opportunity to have dialogue. I think the arts can be a bridge for sometimes difficult conversations to take place.

Artwork’s mission is to transform lives through contemporary art. What is the role of contemporary art?
Contemporary art has an authenticity and honesty that makes it relevant. It is part of our social dialogue, our cultural dialogue, it deals with issues of identity, outrage, and passion. I think anybody who makes any art is courageous. Our role here [at Artworks] is to challenge people’s concepts of who we are and who they are in the world.

How does your current work fit in the contemporary landscape?
My work falls into a few different categories: a good deal of the time I do what’s usually referred to as non-objective painting – fields of color. But the series but I’m working on now is very different. Because I am an art historian, sometimes what I’m studying influences what I paint. I have been writing about early 17th century Dutch painters, like Rembrandt, at the time of the tulip craze, when tulip bulbs were worth more than gold by weight. So, the oil paintings I’m working on right now are influenced by that period. They have no content similar to a Dutch painting, but I’ve treated these linen canvases with glazes and the underpainting the same way that a 1600’s Dutch painter would have treated them.

I guess like a lot of the artists here, I follow a very deep-seated personal motivation to make art. Hopefully, that very subjective attitude can intersect with an audience’s interests and makes it universal. Sometimes you go and see art, and something hits you, and it is beyond explanation. You literally in fall in love with it – it is something that transforms you, no matter what the artist’s intentions.

What do you wish people knew about what it means to be a working artist?
I call Artworks a “blue collar” artist community – we roll up our sleeves and make art. I think most artists want people to love their work, but more importantly we want to be appreciated even if you don’t like the art. There’s art all over our community – it’s in restaurants and stores and offices – take the time to stop and notice.

Live Loveland’s mission is to celebrate, engage and unify our community. Which of those actions do you think Loveland needs the most and how do you think we as a community can manifest it?
I don’t know anybody who doesn’t brag about Loveland who’s lived here. It is physically beautiful, and there’s plenty of activities going on. I think we can all make a personal effort to just notice the great things about Loveland because it’s true.

Learn more about Andrew and Artworks Loveland

By Jessica Moskwa Hawkins
January 17, 2019

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